The music is indeed both strange and beautiful. So is the experience of it all. Floating rhythms, haunting vocals, and ethereal melodies comprise the album from beginning to end on the stateside debut from Matt Hales, otherwise known as Aqualung.
Taking his artistic name from the music itself – feeling as though one were in a place that would make it difficult to breathe, such as far away in space or sinking underwater – Aqualung has crafted a masterpiece that has taken Brit-pop to a level that fellow countrymen like Keane have only dreamed of taking it.
After unsuccessful attempts with several bands, such as Ruth or the 45’s, Aqualung took his music career to his own apartment to create the music he wanted to. The result is a brilliant offering that quickly landed in the UK top ten and, consequently, a North American deal with Columbia Records.
Strange and Beautiful begins with the title track that is easily the best song on the album. With Hales at the piano and minimal drum loop, the music is allowed to develop at its own pace, slowly drawing the listener in. With that as the backdrop, Hales sings lyrics of a love that is never quite realized.
Overall, the album is stellar all the way through. The track “If I Fall” is a melancholy cry for the hand of someone to help in the midst of the chaos Hales was feeling while making the album. “Brighter Than Sunshine” is a Brit-rock summer love song, while “Falling Out of Love” sounds like it was co-written by Alicia Keys. The latter succeeds in an amazing way, merging the British sound with an R&B texture.
Simply put, Strange and Beautiful is amazing offering and one of the first great albums of 2005.